April 20, 2009
Youth Meet with Lawmakers to call for Harvey Milk Day, Better Access to Mental Health Services
Sacramento- Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and their allies rallied at the State Capitol in Sacramento today to demonstrate their support for key legislation honoring Harvey Milk and to increase access to mental health services for youth. Speakers included Senator Mark Leno, Senator Christine Kehoe and Assemblymembers Bonnie Lowenthal and Tom Ammiano.
“LGBT youth activists are honoring Harvey Milk’s legacy by having the courage to live openly and fight discrimination wherever they encounter it,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of GSA Network. “They are traveling hundreds of miles from small towns across California to make our state safer for all students.”
As part of Queer Youth Advocacy Day 2009, participants met with state legislators after the rally to discuss the Harvey Milk Day Bill and the Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth Bill.
The Harvey Milk Day Bill (SB 572) would require the Governor to annually proclaim May 22nd as Harvey Milk Day to educate Californians about an extraordinary leader whose courageous work to end discrimination against the LGBT community in the 1970’s set the stage for many of the civil rights advances we see today.
“Harvey Milk’s contributions to making California a safer, more accepting place are often overlooked,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “But he exemplified that with courage and persistence, ordinary people can create extraordinary change.”
The Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth Bill (SB 543) would allow youth ages 12-17 to consent to mental health treatment or counseling without parental permission. Requiring parental consent is especially harmful for LGBT youth who can face emotionally damaging and sometimes physically threatening situations, if they come out to their parents prematurely and without support.
“Too many times, mental health professionals are forced to turn youth away from receiving vital mental health services because of current parental consent laws,” said Wendy Rae Hill, Director of Government Relations and Political Affairs for National Association of Social Workers-CA. “These youth end up instead in alcohol and drug treatment programs, the justice system or victims of suicide. This bill is a key step in allowing at-risk youth access to professional support.”
Participants also met with staff at the California Department of Education and the California School Boards Association where they shared their stories of discrimination and harassment at school and implored officials to enforce existing safe-schools laws to ensure that transgender and gender non-conforming youth are safe at school.
Queer Youth Advocacy Day 2009 is sponsored by:
Equality California Institute informs lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and the public at large about issues impacting the LGBT community and our allies, trains activists to respond and work proactively for LGBT equality, and connects communities working for justice and civil rights for all.
Contact: Vaishalee Raja, email@example.com, 916-284-9187, www.eqcai.org
GSA Network is a nonprofit organization, governed by youth and adults, that empowers youth activists to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools through Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. There are currently more than 700 GSA clubs in California schools, including more than 50% of the public high schools.
Contact: Jackie Downing, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-333-9649, www.gsanetwork.org
BIENESTAR is committed to enhancing the health and well-being of the Latino community and other underserved communities. BIENESTAR accomplishes this through community education, prevention, mobilization, advocacy and the provision of direct social services.
Contact: Christian Aldama, email@example.com, 818-357-8685, www.bienestar.org
Transgender Law Center (TLC) is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities. TLC provides free legal services to transgender people throughout California and works with community members and partnering organizations on cutting-edge transgender rights policy initiatives.
Contact: Kristina Wertz, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-865-0135, www.transgenderlawcenter.org
The Trevor Project operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Every day, The Trevor Project saves lives through its free and confidential helpline, its website and its educational services.
Contact: Jacqueline Wing, email@example.com, 310-271-8845 ext. 226, www.thetrevorproject.org
National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter (NASW-CA) is a non-profit membership organization that promotes, develops and protects the practice of social work and social workers. The mission of NASW-CA is to improve the conditions of life for all California residents through promoting the quality and effectiveness of social work practice in the state.
Contact: Wendy Rae Hill, firstname.lastname@example.org, 916-202-9700, www.naswca.org